Opinion: The Great Reopening needs us to be spenders again

As the Great Re-Opening comes into view, it is not unclear if our provincial economy will reawaken itself.

More than 400,000 British Columbians are out of work right now, an astonishing situation akin to the Great Depression of the 1930s.

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Back then, the Second World War essentially rescued the economy as industrial production ramped with astonishing speed.

But what is supposed to rescue our economy this time? The answer may be you and me.

The big spenders in terms of economic activity are the federal and provincial governments.

As a result, the days of balanced budgets are long gone. Even the idea of balancing the books now seems like a ludicrous endeavor.

B.C. Finance Minister Carole James will not put a number on what kind of deficit her current budget will incur. The government’s $5 billion financial aid package alone will push the deficit to at least $5 billion. Plunging government revenues from taxation will likely add billions of dollars more to that figure.

As we approach our own date for the reopening – it is May 19 – businesses in all sectors will have varying degrees of success.

It is expected that many restaurants will remain closed even if the public health order limiting them to takeout and deliveries only is lifted. Bars and nightclubs will remain closed by order at least until fall.

Nevertheless, some restaurants and pubs will reopen. And so will other businesses who can successfully adapt to new rules in the workplace will find a way to survive.

However, any long-term survival depends on all us. In other words, we have to turn into consumers again.

We have to patronize the businesses and charities whose survival may be key to any of us still working to continue to hold onto our own jobs down the road. Those of us lucky enough to have a job right now, or an income that is in no danger of disappearing, almost have a duty to take the kind of action that assists our own community’s economic health.

And it has to be done in ways that adhere to the new guidelines, our “new normal.”

It is clear we are about to have a summer the likes of which we have never seen before, at least not in most peoples’ lifetimes.

We are not supposed to gather in large groups, or even in medium sized ones. Our social circle should remain small and we must maintain our physical distance from each other. Events will be few and far between.

But we can still spend money on each other to help our economy reawaken and get moving.

The Great Re-Opening is only days away. How much of an opening it turns out to be depends mostly on ourselves, and not just on governments.

Keith Baldrey is chief political reporter for Global BC.


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